It’s been a very quiet transfer window, as one would expect given the current economic climate and the fact that the club who most needs signings – Portsmouth – can’t realistically make any. There is, almost literally, nothing to get excited about. Most of the deals have been for free, on loan, or represent clubs taking punts on players. But where does the real value lie, and who’s dropped the ball?
Everton – In, Landon Donovan and Phillipe Senderos. Out, Lucas Neill.
The Toffees came into the transfer window treading water, moving backwards in the league, and wondering where their inspiration was going to come from. However, whilst others dallied and flattered to decieve, David Moyes went out and made two signings that could prove to be inspired peices of short-term business. They went into the window already knowing that Donovan would be linking up with them from January 1st. In the form of his life, Donovan has already contributed to an upturn in form at Goodison Park, with his pace and goal threat adding something that has been distinctly lacking from a team that gambled, and lost, on Jo. For his part Donovan knows that this is likely to be his last chance to impress in Europe, and avoid going down in history as a never-quite-was, and thus far he has done exactly that.
Whilst the signing of Phillipe Senderos is a loan on paper, noises being made by the player and Arsenal very much indicate that is with a view to buy, and it’s a move that both Senderos and Everton can gain much from. Everton have the excellent Sylvain Distin at the back, but otherwise have Joseph Yobo, who is a shadow of the player he was three years ago, and Phil Jagielka who is recovering from a serious injury and will need to convince people of his fitness.
Senderos himself was impressive at first, but his development has somewhat stalled, having been overtaken by Johan Djourou and seen William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen signed. He is a one dimensional player, in that he will head and head and head for days, and would stop anything coming past the edge of the area, but contributes little when Arsenal go forward, in contrast to the goal-hungry Gallas and Vermaelen. He’s much more in Evertons mould, and will suit.
This could play out two ways – either Jags is excellent, plays his way into the World Cup squad and Senderos acts as cover on loan, or Jagielka struggles at first but, with Senderos in to cover, is kept out of the firing line. Senderos also bears a remarkable similarity to Distin as a player, and as the Frenchman is 32, can’t have too long left. Senderos would be an ideal long-term replacement to already have in place once Distin begins to fade.
So, two short term deals, but two extremely astute ones that could turn Everton’s season.
Tottenham Hotspur – In, Younes Kaboul and Eidur Gudjohnsen. Out, Robbie Keane, reserves on loan.
Robbie Keane’s return to Spurs has flopped, but as we are judging this transfer window purely objectively and on it’s own merits, Harry Redknapp should be commended for two excellent pieces of business. Redknapp knows Portsmouth players better than most, and as such will have the inside track on Kaboul having already decided to bring him to Fratton Park as one of his last acts as manager on the south coast.
Whilst Portsmouth have been shocking so far this season, the France U-21 international has been one of the few highlights, emerging as a rampaging, goal scoring defender who averages a goal approximately every ten games. Redknapp has stated that Kaboul is a late developer, and has vastly improved as a player since his first promising but ultimately disappointing spell at Spurs. With Woodgate and King both as reliable as nigerian princes, another solid and consistent center back is just what the doctor ordered.
With Keane shipped out to Celtic, presumably with a future fee agreed or with the intention of putting him in the shop window for other clubs, there remained a fourth striker gap to fill. Keane, similar if not in effect then in style to Defoe, has been replaced by one of the smoothest operators ever to play in the Premiership. Eidur represents a genuine diversification in Spurs striking options.
Deployed as a striker by Bolton when he first emerged, he eventually found himself playing as an extremely withdrawn forward, almost a midfielder, by Jose Mourinho, where he found much success and was integral to their two title wins. Calm on the ball, an effective passer and with deceptive guile, Gudjohnsen found himself playing a similar role at Barcelona before the emergence of Andres Iniesta and Xavi as the greatest attacking midfield duo left him out in the cold. He can look forward to playing a more advanced role when given game time at Spurs, which seems increasingly likely as the club are desperate to offload the misfiring Pavlyuchenko.
Wigan – In, Victor Moses, Vlad Stojkovic, Steven Gohouri and Gary Caldwell. Out, Olivier Kapo and Daniel de Ridder.
It takes a brave manager to admit that one of his biggest signings of the summer has been a flop, and to move to replace him in the January window, but that is exactly what Roberto Martinez has done by beating most of Europes top clubs to the signing of the phenomenal Victor Moses. A direct striker of impeccable pace, balance and instinct, the Nigeria-born player has represented England at every level from U-16 to U-19, and U-21 honours are surely a matter of waiting for the next round of fixtures. It’s terrifying when watching him in full flow to think that he’s only 19 years of age.
He began his career as a winger, but has delivered the goals in a struggling Crystal Palace side this season having moved into a more advanced role. Perhaps Jason Scotland will be sparked to life by the new arrival, but Moses certainly offers Martinez an excellent option both now and in the future, and if he only half lives up to his potential, then the reported £2.5 million fee will seem like an absolute snip.
Gohouri, an Ivorian defender who has scored 3 goals in 2 internationals, and Vlad Stojkovic, the Serbia goalie, are both fairly unknown, but Martinez, having built an excellent Swansea side out of unknown foreigners like Ferrie Bodde and Jordi Gomez, has a good track record at scouring the European markets, and Stojkovic looked to be a decent shot stopper on his debut against Notts County. Gohouri looks less promising, having yet to appear for Wigan after joining on a free having been released from Monchengladbachs reserve team, but it’s only fair to reserve judgement. Caldwell is an experienced player, although none of his experience comes in the Premiership, and if nothing else won’t be a disaster.
The loaning out of Kapo and de Ridder is moot, as neither player seems to figure in Martinez’s plans.
Portsmouth – In, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie. Out, Younes Kaboul and Mike Williamson.
An absolutely disastrous transfer window for Pompey, both symbolically and practically. Williamson typifies the kind of mis-management that has led to the club needing to sell players like Kaboul to stay in busines. However, the fact that they didn’t manage to offload anyone else could prove to be absolutely disastrous.
Williamson was signed for £2m rising to £3m just in the summer, despite having thrown his dummy out of the pram at his previous club, Watford. Having made no appearances for the club, he was sold to Newcastle for just £1m five months later. Financial suicide, and hardly the best message to send your fans regarding harmony at the club.
Although selling Kaboul for £9.5m will keep the wolves from the door for a few more weeks, Portsmouth needed to do far, far more in this transfer window to stay alive and competitive in this seasons relegation scrap. They have previous – Harry Redknapp brought in a merry band of mercenaries led by Andres d’Alessandro to keep them up last time they were in trouble this deep – but their enforced inactivity in this window could prove absolutely fatal. They have been unable to sell players they needed to and with a good chunk of the Kaboul money already gone, owed to Spurs thanks to previous deals, they are in dire, dire trouble.
The signing on loan of an Arsenal and Birmingham City flop to replace the sometimes impressive but now gone Dindane does little to lift the spirits, and Portsmouth’s doom is now assured. All that remains to be seen is whether they go under before or after relegation.
Liverpool – In, Maxi Rodrigues. Out, Andrea Dossena and Andriy Voronin.
Far, far more was needed from Rafa Benitez if Liverpool are to pose any sort of title threat. For starters, another decent striker was a must, especially as one of his options (albeit his weakest) has been let go. He’s gone about signing Milan Jovanovic on a free to join in the summer, but that’s a symbolic admission that this season is a write-off, and as a fairly unknown striker from a backwater league, he reminds one of many, many failed Benitez signings. Marouane Chamakh, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Kenwyne Jones have all been linked with Anfield, and whilst the latter may not fit the bill, the former duo are certainly the kind of player Liverpool both need and should be looking for.
However, the meek signing of Maxi Rodrigues, a player who is no longer able to compete with the elite in La Liga, is Rafas only work. Liverpool continue to sign wingers who are either rubbish (Pennant, Nunez) or offer no genuine width (Benayoun, Rieira), and it could be harshly argued that Maxi fits both. Liverpool are, and have been for a number of years, an extremely narrow team, and you have to go back to Steve McManaman to find the last really decent winger who fits the bill. Maxi is more of the same, more of what has not worked, and won’t take Liverpool any closer to the title.
The two departures shouldn’t weaken Rafas team, but were it any weaker they could wave goodbye to 4th.
Elsewhere, there are very few deals of note. Sol Campbell returning to Arsenal is a relatively risk-free excersise in gap-filling, presumably before Wenger signs a more suitable backup defender in the summer. It was probably part of his Chris Smalling masterplan, but he’s decided to move to Old Trafford instead; regardless, we won’t see Smalling at United until next season. Blackburn have signed Yildiray Basturk, who used to be really, really good in about 2002 when he played for Leverkusen and took Turkey to the World Cup semi-finals, but it’s not difficult to imagine that his powers may have waned somewhat since then.
Zaki is back, this time at Hull. That will end in tears. Patrick Vieira is also back in the Premiership at Man City, but I can’t see his signing having a positive or negative effect. I don’t think he’ll play much, but his wages and fee will just be swallowed up by the giant oil monster that bankrolls city. And nobody signed Ruud van Nistelrooy, Marouane Chamakh, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Sandro, Aguero, Dzeko, Bentley, Toni, Kjaer, Angel Di Maria, or David Silva or Villa, but the journalists still got paid.